This is the most often performed Latin American play but it’s not great. Dorfman writes about the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile but he’s not very talented and ends up creating little more than violence porn.
Of course, once a writer offers descriptions of torture and rape, he’s got access to your neural circuits that start firing up like crazy. People who aren’t sociopaths don’t react calmly to that kind of thing. Talk enough about rape, give just enough salacious details, cover it all up with a preachy moral message – and you can sell anything.
This doesn’t mean you can’t create works of art about dictatorships. Castellanos Moya does it. But you can see the difference at once. In Castellanos Moya, there is a story, there are characters and not cardboard cutouts.
The corny tricks of making the audience look in a mirror to contemplate their complicity with the blah blah or putting actors in the audience were cute in the 1930s. But sixty years later they are downright embarrassing.
I don’t want to rag on Dorfman who is a descendant of Ukrainan Jews and, I’m sure, a worthy individual. But this play. . . Why are things so bad with theater in Latin America?
I read that Glenn Close played the leading part in this play. I wonder if she, at least, could do something to save it. I saw 3 Spanish-language performances of the play online, and they are all horrid.
There’s a difference between “an important topic” and “a work of art.” Many people don’t get that.